A special meeting was held by the Nolan County Commissioners' Court on Monday morning, April 18, 2011 at the Nolan County Courthouse.
The meeting was a workshop on the potential construction of a new law enforcement center and jail for Nolan County. Local city officials and law enforcement were in attendance to determine the current standing on the matter and what steps to take in order to move forward.
Four proposed sites around the community were presented to the commissioners for the new facility. It was also noted that contact between various architects and engineers and the city has been continuously made.
Sheriff David Warren gave a letter from the Texas Commission citing jail house standards and offered a future outlook. Warren also presented a report drafted by him listing reasons on the need for a new sheriff's office and jail.
Overcrowding is a major reason; however, Nolan County has been housing prisoners out for the past 11 years to other counties resulting in additional, unforeseen costs. An issue of gender has risen, with the current female prisoner population standing at 30%. The number is projected to grow and according to state standards, female inmates must be separated by "sight and sound" from males.
The current jail does not have any designated holding cells and it only has one "separation" cell. Thus, proper inmate classification and housing is limited for inmates with a variety of medical, mental, suicidal and disciplinary issues.
The Nolan County Jail also has no medical isolation cells or a "negative pressure" cell â€” which houses inmates with diseases like tuberculosis or staph infection. Furthermore, the jail is not handicap accessible, nor are the cells "ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Compliant".
In addition, the existing jail is operating under two significant variances: the lack of remote controlled access for cell doors and inadequate size of single cells. However, the variances are meant to be only temporary and should they continue, the county could suffer strong consequences.
The kitchen and laundry facilities are also a concern. Laundry has become a continuous operation as it is cleaned in a residential sized washer and dryer set. The kitchen is undersized and storage for refrigerated items, frozen foods and dry pantry items are well above capacity.
Other concerns stem from the lack of storage for inmate files, commissary, inmate issue items, mattresses and tools, as well as a lack of workspace and adequate offices.
Warren stressed the fact that the issue at hand was not when the room in the facility will run out, but that it already has. He also mentioned that the new building would also prompt consideration of additional staff. However, from a financial standpoint, the money that has been currently spent on maintenance would discontinue through the construction of a new facility.
Also presented were the financial aspects of building a new law enforcement center and jail. Estimated cost figures, possible funding and property tax estimates were discussed, and it was stated that there would be no reason to increase property value.
The workshop ran throughout the day, but the notion was made that once the current and future financial standing was determined, the possibility of holding a public hearing would be considered.